The Thompson Institute

 I thank the member for Macquarie for her motion giving us the important opportunity to speak about such an incredibly vital issue, but I simply can’t agree with her characterisation of the situation. Though there is more work to be done—I’ll readily accept that—the Morrison government and this minister for health have made mental health, and particularly young people’s mental health, a great national priority, perhaps more so than any other previous federal government. The government is investing $6½ billion this year in mental health support, more than double what was being spent in 2013. This government has doubled the number of Medicare-subsidised psychological services available to 20, introduced publicly funded telehealth, improved access to these services in regional areas, and increased funding significantly to Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline. For headspace alone, we’re delivering an extra $278.6 million to increase the number of services to 164. Many of these new centres are already opening around the country. This government’s commitment to youth mental health and suicide prevention has helped to make my own community in Fisher a national and, indeed, world leader in this field. The government has invested $3.2 million in a trial to pilot a new approach to treating eating disorders through our local Primary Health Network. It’s provided more than $6 million to endED and the Butterfly Foundation to construct Australia’s first ever residential eating disorder facility, operated by the Butterfly Foundation, called Wandi Nerida.

This government has also invested $7½ million in specific programs on suicide prevention and youth mental health at the University of the Sunshine Coast Thompson Institute, led by Professor Jim Lagopoulos. The results of that investment in my own community, and its world-leading expertise, have been unmatched around the country. Thanks to this funding and the hard work of Jim Lagopoulos’s team, between 2018 and 2020 the Thompson Institute published 14 book chapters and more than 150 different peer reviewed journal articles filled with world-first research. Its groundbreaking publications about young people’s mental health alone have covered subjects as diverse as insomnia, cannabis, binge drinking, early intervention, brain differences in young people with psychotic disorders, the impact of exercise and psychological distress on the brain, pregnancy and mental health, chronic fatigue syndrome sport related concussions, transcranial magnetic stimulation, mindfulness and sexual violence.

Today, that work continues. The Thompson Institute is in the process of conducting the world’s first study using functional MRI technology to understand how cyberbullying impacts the brains of our young people, and the first longitudinal study of the developing brains of 12- to 15-year-olds. The Thompson Institute’s impact, however, has gone far beyond research. Its insights and training have been spread widely through my community. The Thompson Institute has reached more than 250,000 with its suicide prevention and mental health first aid programs and has run fortnightly community presentations. Its Myndset program has enhanced coordination between the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and headspace in our region and ensured that young people who might otherwise fall between the two have an appropriate service provider. The Thompson Institute has taken its brain changes program into local schools, while its EMERALD wellbeing program is even being exported to Victoria.

Social impact organisation Rooy estimate that the total economic value created by this suicide prevention work on the Sunshine Coast amounts to $13.8 million. It is unquestionably the case that the suicide rate on the Sunshine Coast has come down from 18 per cent above the national average five years ago to 9.1 per cent above the national average. This is still far too high. However, the significant reduction that we have seen over the past five years is a testament to the Thompson Institute’s dramatic impact. I’m continuing to work with the Thompson Institute and the government to try and get them continued funding so they can keep doing the great work that they’re doing.

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